Uruguay Says It Will Welcome More Syrian Refugees

Foreign minister's announcement comes as budget concerns raised doubts over the arrival of a second group of Syrians fleeing the civil war.

The Associated Press
The Associated Press
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The Associated Press
The Associated Press

AP - Uruguay will continue welcoming Syrian refugees who are fleeing from civil war, the foreign minister said Monday, overriding concerns about the South American country's budget.

The announcement by Foreign Minister Rodolfo Nin Novoa came four days after the head of Uruguay's Human Rights Secretariat, Javier Miranda, told lawmakers that budget concerns were raising doubts about the arrival of a second group of Syrians.

Since civil war broke out in Syria in 2011, more than 4 million Syrians have sought refuge abroad, the largest number from any crisis in almost 25 years, the United Nations has said.

Uruguay welcomed 42 Syrian refugees who arrived in October 2014. Under former President Jose Mujica, Uruguay initially agreed to receive a total of 120 Syrian refugees.

"The national government is going to honor its commitment and will not enter a humanitarian default," Nin said at a press conference. "We know it obviously costs money. But I appeal to the sensibility and solidarity of Uruguayans to understand the drama being lived by these families — a true hell on Earth."

Nin said a second group of seven families will arrive later this year. He rejected criticism by some Uruguayans who feel their country should not welcome more refugees.

President Tabare Vazquez, who took power in March, had said that a "profound analysis" was necessary before Uruguay decided whether to take more Syrian refugees.

Former President Mujica complained earlier this year that the Syrian refugees who have been resettled in his country were not capable of agricultural work. The former president said that requirement was put to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees when Uruguay agreed to accept Syrian refugees.

Six former Guantanamo Bay detainees also were resettled in Uruguay as a humanitarian gesture last December.